Friends Remember Maureen Woods (Looking Back)

Wendy Newman
"It is very difficult for me to write about Maureen, a professional colleague who became a close personal friend.  Her contributions as a library leader have been many and lasting – locally, where she served local and regional systems in Saskatchewan; provincially, as a leader of ground-breaking provincial planning and implementation in SK, AB, and BC; and nationally, as a leader of PTLDC at a time of national collaborative visioning.  Always she showed the same strengths in her approach – identify and listen to the stakeholders, do the research, build community, work collaboratively, understand the priorities of the decision-makers and reflect them back, avoid narrowness and partisanship, and above all, think big.   She was the best “translator” of government to libraries and libraries to government that I ever worked with.  It is so evident in the BC strategic plan, which takes the premier’s focus on literacy and crafts an action plan to make things happen through libraries, and in the planning work of SILS, to lever the existing achievement and soar to the next level.  As a guest lecturer in my course, she took a personal interest in the aspirations of each student and she shared her principles of working with government with great generosity and enthusiasm.  She was intentionally inclusive and fiercely loyal, and she never forgot a friend.   She had great personal style, passion, and charisma.    Having created an enduring personal and professional legacy, she will remain with us."  

"the same Moe inside - courageous, spirited, loyal, and good-hearted" 

Stan Squires 

"Her enthusiasm and genuine passion for libraries is what I will always remember. She was always the life of the old PTLDC."

David Ryland - Victoria BC 

"As Maureen’s administrative assistant while she was Director of the Public Library Services Branch in British Columbia, I was privy to a lot in my time with her. My first recollection was those red, round-rimmed plastic glasses she sported – that and fact she drove a two-seater RAV4. This made me a bit wary. What has HR done to me! But I soon came to see those were simply Maureen’s way of letting anyone know that this is what you are getting – it’s unfiltered and I own it and if you don’t like it – tough. Oh, and those who expect the workplace to be an expletive-free zone should seek cover immediately.

But Maureen’s tireless, no-bull work style was a constant companion to an honest, generous, and caring personal manner that I witnessed more times than I can count. She helped others with abandon, and on more than one occasion showed the kind of compassion to me and my family one rarely would expect to see from a co-worker, let alone a boss.

We are very sad in our household right now, but it is tempered by how grateful we are to have had Maureen in our lives for the time we did."

Irene Geng, FVRL 

"Threats to the provincial government's public library funding were a major concern because of the economic downturn that turned the world upside down in 2008-2009. Maureen was a key influencer in helping BC's libraries dialogue with the Province about the value of provincial funding...and maintaining provincial funding.

As part of a farewell gift to Maureen, we compiled a  list for her titled "My Legacy of Moe-isms" and included 10 of Maureen's most commonly-used phrases. Perhaps you'll recognize some of them...and remember the twinkle in her eye when she said them.

  • Cheeky monkey
  • The C place (Coquitlam)
  • Say words
  • Ya think?
  • Did I say that out loud?
  • I just sit at my desk and eat bonbons
  • Let's go into my office and be important
  • Protect our phoney baloney jobs
  • Not so much
  • We live with hope

Maureen was our CEO only from November 12, 2008 to September 15, 2009. Even so, she led FVRL with distinction, made wise decisions, motivated action, implemented change, and lived life with passion. We count ourselves privileged to have known and worked with her.  

Remembering her with fondness."

Shawn Tetford

So sorry to hear of her passing.   I had only been working with the library system here a few months when she called, as chair of PTPLC, to chat and offer her assistance if I needed it.  She was an articulate, passionate individual whose contribution to public libraries will not be forgotten

Julie Ourum

"Personally this came as a shock as I have known Maureen for many years and valued her as a friend and colleague.  She always impressed me with her strong commitment to libraries and her enthusiasm for making sure that we continue to be relevant and part of the picture, whether through technology or other areas.   She was inspirational, always willing to share and encourage, and of course, she was just plain fun to be around. 

We brought her up to the Yukon some years back to talk about multi-type library systems (the Saskatchewan model).  Alas that never got off the ground here, but hopefully sowed some seeds for future collaborations.  I remember taking her to Skagway (in Alaska) for a day trip and having to change a flat tire on a government vehicle on a back road so we could get back to Whitehorse in time for her flight out.  She took it with good humour, and I have the photos to prove it."

Silvana Harwood

"Maureen Woods was our Library Director for about two years and she came as a strong wind that blew away many of the cobwebs that existed here.  I will always remember her for her wonderful laugh, her tee hee giggle, and the way she would come to my office, carrying a head of romaine lettuce, munching away and just wanting to shoot the breeze.  I took it as a great compliment that she would come to let loose in my office.  

Maureen had an amazing sense of style and personally, I think her talents were wasted as a librarian - she would have been a marvellous designer or architect!  Just a little of that sense rubbed off on me and she would be happy to know that I now own many purses, not all of them black!  

She gave me opportunities that I might never have had and I will always appreciate that she saw something in me.  Bless you dear Maureen."

[Moe influenced many to add colour to their lives in more ways than one! PJ]

Punch Jackson
Moe loved pens!! I think she had pens for every occasion and probably for every person she knew. She had pens for illustrating with & yes they were in the colours of the rainbow....

Moe was obsessed with her office organization....binders and file folders all had to be colour coordinated and labelled.

I was never really clear if she embraced technology or was the great pretender. It didn't matter if she embraced it herself but she knew what it could do for libraries.

Plotting the Minister's Conference was a big deal for Moe. The first meeting, ever, of Ministers responsible for public libraries. We heard more excuses why this Minister or that couldn't attend. Hundreds of hours to prepare briefing books, organize hotels and link to the official opening of the 2005 CLA Conference in Calgary. It was a big deal for us as well because it was Alberta's Centennial.

At the last minute the Minister's EA wanted to call it off because only two other Ministers were coming. Gary Mar understood the significance and said we were moving ahead. He did a masterful job getting through the agenda with the Francophone Ontario Minister on his left and the Francophone New Brunswick Minister on his right. All the other provinces had their "officials" there. Moe couldn't stop smiling....what an accomplishment.

Moe was a community developer, true to her Saskatchewan roots!! She used the word cooperatives in meetings just to see the Albertans cringe.

Whenever things got testy during the rollout of APLEN and there was a fork in the road Moe would always say..."LISTEN TO THE FOLKS" .
Those words will live with me forever and will be my fondest memory of Maureen.

Dean Frey 
It would be nice if you could link to the TWIL video where you and Maureen & I talk with Erik at Jasper. This is Maureen in her prime!
My memories of Maureen are of her getting things done, but she always had the big picture - the important issues - in her brain as well. I always enjoyed her calls from APLEN or TAL, since I knew there would always be a strategic element to our discussion. Best of all was brainstorming for Netspeed or the Library Futures conference. We ended up with some great speakers, and were really close to getting some others, like Cory Doctorow and Douglas Coupland. She was great at vision, and she knew the great places that Alberta's libraries were going.  New technologies make things that were really hard in the early days (like last mile connectivity and engaging people online) relatively easy nowadays. But none of today's results could have happened without people like Maureen and Penny McKee and Pat Jobb and Alan McDonald. I miss them all.

"It was for a good cause"

If you have a comment, a memory or a "Moeism" post it in the comment section below.





Deb Thomas said…
Maureen was partly responsible for my acceptance into graduate library studies. As an applicant with tons of experience but 30 year old undergraduate grades, I had to argue my way in and Maureen was a significant support. I had the privilege a bit later to do a practicum at what was then Public Library Services for BC while Maureen was director. She and her staff were very generous with their time and expertise. I also had the privilege of being part of the several symposiums she held as part of the Libraries Without Walls strategic process. She was a visionary in the library field and facilitated significant programs for public libraries, some of which have thankfully survived the budget cuts.
SILS Staff said…
Starting a new consortium is like herding feral cats. Add in the fact that SILS was going to be province-wide and the degree of difficulty goes up exponentially. And yet, Maureen handled it all with grace and humour.

As her staff at SILS we were observers and participants in the daily frustrations and joys. There were references to the patrons of "Upper Rubber Boot" (a Moe-ism heard frequently around the office) and reminders to consider communities both large and small.

As Maureen's illness invaded with terrible swiftness, she remained upbeat and positive - more concerned with others than herself. And now we are left to carry on carrying on (as Maureen would say).

Gerry Burla, Lynn Calhoun, Veronica Geminder and Lynn Reynish
Carrol Lunau said…
I first met Maureen when we started at U of A library school in 1975. Needless to say she was a breath of fresh air and probably the youngest in the class which consisted of a number of folks who graduated some years before and were rushing to complete the program before it became a two year program. Over the following 30+ years our paths crossed as we moved from province to province. Maureen was a wonderful partner in trying to ensure equitable access to information for all through library networking and resource sharing. No matter where we encountered each other food and drinks always played a prominent role and Maureen was a gracious hostess whether we met in a restaurant, bar, coffee shop or her home. She will be missed.
Barbara Jo May said…
I first met Maureen sometime in the mid-80's when I worked as Community Services Librarian for NWT Public Library Services. Maureen came to Hay River to facilitate a planning session for public libraries...but what she really brought to that event was pure inspiration.

NWTPLS had gathered people from all over the North - community librarians, board members, adult educators, politicians, drug & alcohol workers, elders - anyone at all interested in exploring how a library might be a channel for building community in their hamlet or small town.

Maureen talked about her work at RPL & La Ronge, but she also helped people realize they had the best knowledge about what was needed in their particular community. People went home to places like Ft. Simpson, Rankin Inlet, & Igloolik, and did some amazing work establishing their own "community defined" library service.

Maureen was also one of a group of Prairie librarians (with Nita Cook, Barb Clubb, Ann Curry & others) who were always willing to help NWTPLS or Northern folks with advice or practical help.

I crossed paths with Maureen often, as we both moved to jobs across B.C. and Alberta. And, as these tributes show, she was always a true leader in our field. I will remember Maureen most for her deep, almost intuitive, understanding of community development; and for her generosity in sharing her knowledge with me and many Northerners. She will be remembered.
Lynn Calhoun said…
Moe was my boss, mentor, and friend. I remember speaking with her for the first time. I was standing outside of my classroom in the hallway at SAIT. I had read about the system administrator position with SILS and was calling to find out more about the job. I hadn't really thought about leaving Calgary after my database program as I had plans to move into the corporate world as a database administrator. After speaking with Maureen that day, I had a very strong feeling that SILS would be in my future. The way she spoke about the things that SILS had accomplished and the plans for the Consortium was compelling to me. In that phone call, she reminded me of all of the wonderful, meaningful reasons to work in and for libraries. After meeting her in my interview in Regina, I knew that I wanted a chance to work for her and SILS.

Throughout my career, I was always longing for someone to call mentor. Maureen took on that role for me. Her strength of character, intelligence, creativity, sense of humor, funky glasses, and her ability to guide me as I took on this challenging role with the Consortium gave me a model to strive for. She was always there to listen and advise me when I needed her and she never sounded bored when I would go on and on about computer issues. She always seemed to have time to share in my sense of accomplishment when I would, for example, complete a complicated piece of computer programming. She inspired me to be my best and gave me a continuing example of how to accomplish that.

I always enjoyed my time with Maureen. I was always learning from her. She showed me that to be a strong leader as a woman, you do not have to abandon your sense of empathy or willingness to laugh and just be silly sometimes. Moe was basically brilliant. As a boss, mentor, and friend her ability to lead us all in our mission to help others through our service in libraries was tremendous. I will always carry a part of her with me. She will continue to inspire me and her example will always remind me of what it is to be a truly great human being.

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